May 1, 2006 11:41 AM PDT

Samsung minitablet debuts in U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO--Samsung brought its Origami tablet to the United States on Monday, announcing that the device would go on sale at Best Buy's online store next week and will show up in some of the retailer's outlets this summer.

The Q1 minitablet, with its 7-inch screen, built-in Bluetooth connectivity and Wi-Fi wireless capabilities, will sell for $1,099. Optional add-ons include an extended-life battery and a travel case with a built-in keyboard.

Samsung's Q1

Samsung's Q1 device, which was first shown at the CeBit trade show in Germany in March, uses Intel's ultralow-voltage Celeron, running at 900MHz, has 512MB of memory and runs a version of Windows XP Tablet PC edition that is customized to enable typing via an on-screen "dial" keyboard.

The Q1 will be available May 7 at Best Buy's online store and will make its way into Best Buy's retail stores later this month. Business retailer CDW is expected to carry the device as well. It will also launch in the U.K., France, Germany and China later this month.

Although Microsoft and Intel have been touting a future in which such devices get all-day battery life, Samsung's initial device has a standard battery life rated at up to 3.5 hours.

Monday's launch marks the culmination of a marketing push that generated considerable buzz when Microsoft first started hinting about the Origami devices earlier this year. Origami represents the software maker's code name for the software that powers the minitablets. Intel has also been touting the possibilities of such products, which it calls ultramobile PCs.

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Video: Samsung shows off Q1
H.S. Kim, Samsung's executive vice president and general manager of computer systems, rolls out the company's new Q1 in San Francisco.

Market researcher In-Stat has forecast that shipments of such ultramobile PCs could reach 7.8 million units by 2011.

Intel, though, sees an even brighter future. In an interview, Intel Vice President Gadi Singer said the market opportunity is "absolutely much higher."

"We're looking at a market of 100 million units a year," Singer said, but he did not say when the market would reach that size.

However, analysts have been critical of the first generation of devices, saying they will fall short of the tech giants' long-term goals and are likely to appeal largely to gadget enthusiasts.

In a press conference on Monday, Samsung tried to cast a somewhat wider net.

"Q1 is ready for the typical computer user," said H.S. Kim, exective vice president of Samsung Electronics' Computer System Division. "The goal is to provide users with the freedom to be mobile while connected to their business and entertainment files that are a crucial part of their lives."

But the first customers of the Q1 are likely to be users with specialized needs, such as medical workers that have been using larger Tablet PCs but found them too bulky or too expensive, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

Most consumers won't want to spend $1,099 on one of these devices just yet, Bajarin said. If vendors can price a minitablet somewhere between $499 and $699, they'll have a better chance of courting regular users, he said.

However, not all analysts were sure that corporations would want a minitablet with so many multimedia features. "It's too expensive for a consumer device, but too consumery for a commercial device," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC.

Both Singer and Microsoft corporate vice president Bill Mitchell said there are challenges that need to still be overcome, including cost and battery life barriers.

"There are a lot of hard problems," Mitchell told CNET News.com. Singer, though, quickly added that all of the issues are "technically and physically solvable."

"We are excited about the Q1 as the first step," Mitchell said at a press briefing.

Mitchell said the company has already done some work to make Windows run better on a smaller touch-screen device and that it will do more work with Windows Vista. For the first devices, Microsoft added a dial keyboard as well as a more touch-friendly version of Windows Media Player and a version of the popular puzzle game Sudoku.

"You can't just take Windows, plunk it down on a small-form-factor PC and call it a day," he said during a press briefing.

While the first minitablets aren't expected to rapidly take off, the size and features promised by the devices are interesting as prices come down, Bajarin said. "This is the platform that's closer to (Bill) Gates' vision of mobile computing," he said, comparing the Q1 to the Tablet PC.

"Since this is the first, we're really just trying to get user feedback," said David Nichols, director of display marketing for Samsung's information technology division.

See more CNET content tagged:
Samsung Q1, minitablet PC, Microsoft Origami, online store, ultramobile PC

11 comments

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Not ready for prime time
I can't really see why Origami products are being released now when they are obviously not ready.

All the reports I've seen talk about how battery life is poor, connectivity is fairly limited and there are no killer apps that make these things better than laptops or PocketPCs (they don't even have 'instant on').

Added to this is the fact that even Microsoft are talking in terms of 'challenges' and 'many issues need to be addressed.' That's what beta testing is for.

These guys should go away for about another year and come back when they have something worth buying. Otherwise, they'll tarnish the Origami concept irreparably.
Posted by JFDMit (180 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because there's an use for them?
There are many scenarios that call for this kind of device, and any of them could sell units. For example:
- Media Center control (and home automation control)
- Travel companion (so you don't have to take your PC with you on vacation). This includes downloading your pictures and videos from your camera while on the road, keeping notes and maps on the machine, etc.
- portable Picture and video viewer (so you don't have to see tiny videos on an iPod).
- eBook reader (at last a format you can take to the bed).
There are many more uses for a device like this. Will the first gen be just a shadow of the future units? Of course. I still remember the first Pocket PC (the Nino) Compared to a modern pocket PC it sucked, but it sill go the job done at the time.
The first version of the Origami can work in all those scenarios so I think it's a good idea to launch it now. Future versions will expand the concept to its full version but current customers will probably do fine with the current units.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
Origami computers
This may actually be a useful product if the sort of folding keyboards like those sold to accommodate the Palm Pilot could be attached.
Posted by stan.winikoff (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
True, but...
...then all you've really got is a subnotebook PC that you snap together before using.

I think the real potential of Origamis will not be apparent for quite awhile, and will depend on the killer apps that emerge from the current flurry of 'Web 2.0' development.

If they have to rely on traditional notebook PC USPs, I can't see them being anything more than entry-level devices for kids or low-end users. And that's certainly not how they're being sold.
Posted by JFDMit (180 comments )
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Check out the Nokia 770
Although much slower processor and less ram, the Nokia will actually fit in a pocket. Using vncviewer, it's exactly what I was looking for.
Posted by rubik5x5x5 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have...
... its a neat device and delivers some useful functionality despite its limited processor and memory. The one thing that stopped me from buying it was that Skype wasn't yet available for the device (although I understand a version will be available soon).

The size and shape of the Nokia is ideal for a truly portable yet useable device. It's big enough to render true web pages, while being small enough to, as you say, fit in a pocket. I'm eager to see a new version with faster CPU and better memory, perhaps with some form of 3G connectivity in addition to WiFi. That would be a tough combination to beat.
Posted by JFDMit (180 comments )
Link Flag
Better yet: Nokia N800
It fixes all N770 shortcomings (slow processor, not enough memory, a nice webcam...).
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
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